What are Probiotics
The term “probiotic” means “for life.” Probiotics are good bacteria—living microorganisms—like those that live naturally in your digestive tract. To support good digestive health, it’s important to have a balance of good bacteria in your digestive tract.
Recent research (and commercials) tell us probiotic products are good for our health, with benefits ranging from improved digestion to managing allergies and colds. Just as humans can benefit from the good bacteria of probiotics, plants can benefit from certain microbes. And that benefit is also good for the environment.
In plants, beneficial bacteria and fungi are endophytes. Scientists have known for decades that plants like legumes (peas, beans, and lentils) have beneficial bacteria in nodules attached to their roots. These bacteria “fix” vital nitrogen, turning it into a form the plant can easily use. However, researchers have recently found some nitrogen-fixing bacteria actually live inside plant tissue–in the leaves, stems, and roots—with impressive results.
This endophyte-plant relationship is partly a matter of speed in adaptation. Plants have a limited ability to genetically adapt to rapid environmental changes (heat, drought, toxins, or limited nutrients) and so they may use microbes that do have this capacity to rapidly evolve due to their vastly shorter life cycles. By having the right microbes for the conditions, the plants are healthier. That is how it is similar to humans taking probiotics to improve their health.